from Chapter Thirteen: Lost in the Roxy

The Roxy theater had several incarnations, but all of them were pretty foul.

Located on the south side of the street next to the Cine Twins, it was originally one of the Deuce's grungiest, most pungent smelling, and most dangerous adult houses. Sharing management with the landmark scumatorium Show World, the Roxy spent the 1970s through the mid-1980s showing third-run hardcore porn, hosting a live sex show, and serving as an open stomping ground for quickie prostitution. It attracted the worst, most desperate people on the Deuce. You didn't even stand near the theater unless you wanted a drug addict streetwalker propositioning you as her pimp/live-show partner hung over your shoulder.

In the early to mid-1980s, rare Deuce favorites that had been gone for years were suddenly accessible again because of video, and distributors who hadn't shown some movies in years suddenly saw dollar signs. In 1985, the Roxy was renovated and converted into a multileveled fourplex that showed exploitation double bills on video, becoming a sort of living Sleazoid museum. You could catch every sort of film from every year, including many rough-girl gems from the 1970s, like Fugitive Girls and the Arthur Marks classics Roommates and Centerfold Girls. There were bookings so dissimilar only the Deuce could conceive them, like Superman (1978) and Superfly (1972). Unfortunately, despite the renovation, the Roxy remained devoid of fresh air and retained both its BO aroma and its super-sleazy vibe. Sometimes you'd see the Roxy cashiers -- former live-show workers with names llike Duran -- run into a broom closet with a crack pipe during their breaks.

To walk into one of the Roxy's mini-theaters meant walking into any number of crazy scenes or insane outbursts. You'd see Laura Gemser getting violated by her real-life husband, Gabriele Tinti, in Smooth Silk and Raw Velvet after she participates in a sex magick ceremony at the Sphinx. (The movie was a legendary Eurosleaze classic that you'd have been lucky to catch when it was first released in 1977.) Or maybe you'd see Victor Buono screaming at you while rearranging an Alice in Wonderland style tea party in the horror oddity Moonchild (1974), unable to get it together -- something about the guests not sitting where he wanted. You never knew what movie you were walking into. You'd have to stand there for a few minutes to figure it out.

If you stood too long, though, people would start to surround you, thinking you were looking for a possible sex partner or were just stupid and asking to be robbed. So it was wise to take one of the ass-numbing plastic seats anyway if you weren't sure, then figure it out. But before you sat down, you'd have to flick a lighter at the seat to make sure there was no weird wet mess on it.

Once seated, you could easily imagine Victor marching off the screen to tell you to move your chair, as the rest of the cast shouted at you that they hated it there and wanted out of Times Square.